Queen’s Speech – Bishop of London on constitution, the Union, health and social care

On 13th May 2021 the Bishop of London spoke during the second day of debate on the Queen’s Speech. Her speech focused on the constitution and Union, and on integrated health and social care.

My Lords, I add my voice to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie. I thank her for her maiden speech.

There is much to welcome in this gracious Speech, including its focus on recovery from the impact of Covid on our lives and on the economy, the investment in skills and infrastructure that it promises, and its whole-country approach. A new programme implies a clean sheet and a fresh start, but I hope that the unresolved issues from the close of the last Session—namely those relating to the then Fire Safety Bill and the then Domestic Abuse Bill—will be resolved in this Session. I hope that the financial burdens on leaseholders will stay at the forefront of the Government’s concerns and be quickly resolved in the building safety Bill. Additionally, it was disappointing that the Domestic Abuse Bill reached Royal Assent without securing protection for all women, namely migrant women. I hope that the Government will uphold their promise to treat victims as victims first and foremost, and at least ratify the Istanbul convention before the nation’s 10-year anniversary of its signing in the summer of next year.

The previous parliamentary Session will for ever be marked in our minds due to coronavirus. I will say something about integrated health and social care, but will start off with the subject in hand: the constitution.

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Votes: EU (Future Relationship) Bill

On 30th December 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s European Union (Future Relationship) Bill at all stages. Three votes were held on the Bill, in which bishops took part:

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Bishop of London asks about elderly domestic abuse during covid-19 lockdown

On 1st December 2020 the Bishop of London asked an oral question on research into facts about domestic abuse of older people during the Covid-19 lockdown:
The Lord Bishop of London [V] : My Lords, as the Minister has commented, at present, we only collect data on those aged between 60 and 74. While she is making a commitment to work with the ONS to collect data on those aged over 74, will she commit to removing this age limit so we can highlight the experience of this older demographic?

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Bishop of London asks Government how it will tackle social and economic inequalities in response to covid-19

On 26th October 202 the Bishop of London asked a question in the House of Lords that she had tabled, on covid-19 and social and economic inequalities. The exchanges and follow-up questions from other Members are reproduced below:

Lord Bishop of London: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that (1) social, and (2) economic, inequalities are addressed in their plans for economic recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baroness Penn (Con): My Lords, the Government have taken unprecedented action to keep people in work and to support businesses since the pandemic began. We are committed to carefully considering the social and economic impact of new policies and to tackling inequalities. Initiatives such as the Kickstart Scheme, the Job Support Scheme and enhanced welfare provision continue to support people, particularly those in groups at risk of higher unemployment due to the pandemic.

The Lord Bishop of London [V]: I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Given the multiple layers of inequality that the pandemic is revealing, can the Minister tell the House whether Her Majesty’s Government will implement the recommendations made in the recent 10-year Marmot review and set up a taskforce that will focus on understanding the social and economic determinants of health from a holistic, society-wide perspective? Continue reading “Bishop of London asks Government how it will tackle social and economic inequalities in response to covid-19”

Bishop of London asks about support for almshouses to upgrade their facilities to older people

On 22nd October Lord Kennedy of Southwark asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the role of alms houses in the provision of housing for the elderly.” The Bishop of London asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I declare my interests as stated in the register. The Church of England continues to provide excellent almshouses provision as a support to older people through its charities. There are over 30,000 almshouses in the UK and more than 1,000 new ones have been built in the last decade. Another 750 are in the pipeline, providing places of flourishing and support for the elderly. However, the complexities of the buildings themselves prohibit modern building standards being achieved. Will the Minister comment on whether Her Majesty’s Government will provide grants for local almshouse charities to upgrade their facilities within the complex planning frameworks associated with these buildings?

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Votes: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

On 21st October 2020 three votes were held on the Government’s Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. Members of the Lords were asked to agree with the decisions of the Commons to reject amendments they had passed to the Bill, or to propose further amendments in lieu of them. Several bishops took part:
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Bishop of London voices concern about high number of remand prisoners

On 21st October Lord German asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact on (1) prisons, (2) prisoners, and (3) those on remand, of increasing the maximum period of remand in custody by eight weeks.” The Bishop of London asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many hundreds of remand prisoners in London prisons are now held for much longer periods than before Covid while waiting for a trial date? Her Majesty’s Prison Pentonville alone has over 400 prisoners waiting for unprecedented periods—of over a year—for their cases to be heard. Can she assure your Lordships’ House that action is being taken to relieve this? If so, what action can we expect? Continue reading “Bishop of London voices concern about high number of remand prisoners”

Bishop of London – need to invest in local public health responses to coronavirus and offer right financial support for most restricted areas

On 20th October 2020 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a Government statement on Covid-19, and also considered the Government’s Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2020. The Bishop of London spoke in response to both:

In response to the Motion to approve the Regulations, she said:

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the work that he and others are doing to make decisions at this very challenging time. The regulations we are debating relate to health protection restrictions and fines. However, I wonder whether our approach to public health protection and restrictions during the pandemic needs to pay more attention to a bottom-up approach of wisdom, rather than simply relying on top-down pragmatism and the push and pull of financial incentives. Last week, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester highlighted how policies, such as fines, are out of touch with many. It has led to frustration and resentment nationwide. Continue reading “Bishop of London – need to invest in local public health responses to coronavirus and offer right financial support for most restricted areas”

Vote: UK Internal Market Bill motion to regret

On Tuesday 20th October a vote was taken on a Motion to Regret on the Government’s United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. Seven bishops voted for the Motion:
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Bishop of London asks Government about impact on wellbeing of visiting restrictions at care homes

On 20th October 2020 the Bishop of London received a written answer to a question she had asked Government about visiting restrictions at care homes:

The Lord Bishop of London: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of visiting restrictions at care homes on the wellbeing of residents; and what plans they have to review their policy on visiting arrangement at care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. [HL8737] Continue reading “Bishop of London asks Government about impact on wellbeing of visiting restrictions at care homes”